Family dinner not only builds communication skills, but it also builds confidence which is great protection against peer pressure.
How do people learn to communicate? They learn from their family of origin by observing and copying. But what if parents never spend enough time with their kids? How do they learn to communicate? That’s right, from other people who may also have no idea how to communicate well.
Studies show that families who eat together have children who communicate better with all ages of individuals. The main reason is that at any one dinner table there are different ages with different communication levels. Therefore, an older child will learn to be patient with a younger child and listen. And a younger child learns that it’s okay to speak up and to wait their turn. This is how we learn.
You can help the process by making plans before dinner about the conversation and give tips on how to handle it.
Sitting at a quiet dinner table with no conversation can become a problem for family members of all ages. Use this time to talk about your day and things that matter for your family. Try some of these tips if there is a lull in the conversation. It’s not important to talk every minute, but it will be more enjoyable if everyone participates.
- Write Down Conversation Starters – If your family is new to dinner table talk, you may want to write down some conversation starters and put them in a box and let a child choose one to get started. Once you’ve started you don’t need to stop for the next question, save them for another night where no one is talking.
- Give Everyone a Chance – Some family members may be young or less outspoken. Give these members of the family a chance to speak by asking them questions point blank. If you let the talker monopolize the conversation you aren’t teaching them good listening skills.
- Don’t Bring Up Painful Issues – You don’t want to spend dinner crying, therefore, don’t bring up bad and painful issues until it’s safe to do so. If grandma just died, avoid that discussion until some time has passed. If one family member is especially disturbed by a current event, and you disagree, leave it be.
- Do Learn to Have Differences of Opinion – While bringing up very volatile issues in a family is not a good way to have good dinner conversion it is nice if you can talk about things you disagree on in a polite way with respect. It’s a lost art that everyone should know how to do.
- If you Argue Put a Bell on The Table – If there are discussions that seem to be getting out of hand, end the discussion without any repercussions with a special signal like a bell. If you want to teach children to discuss politics, religion, and other issues this is a good tactic to take. But remember you cannot force your opinion on your children any more than they can force theirs on you. Although, you can influence by example.
Researchers at Emory gave the kids a “do you know” test – do you know where your grandparents were born, where your parents went to high school…kids who knew more about their family history had a higher sense of self-esteem and a greater belief that they could control their own lives. It was the number one predicter of a childs emotional wellbeing. Brice Feller
Improving communication in children (and adults) with dinnertime conversation is an excellent way to demonstrate manners, listening, and the proper way to disagree with someone. It can be challenging if your kids aren’t used to it but once you get accustomed to it, it’ll be like second nature and everyone will look forward to it.
If you want to start having fun at dinner here are a few dinner conversations starts you can use. Print this out and then cut each topic out, then place it in a box or a jar. Then anytime the family is just sitting there not talking get someone to choose a conversation starter. No need to grab more than one unless you just want to make a game of it. Usually, once you get started the conversation will take on a life of its own.
- Name something that happened today that you loved.
- If you won a million dollars after taxes, what’s the first thing you’d do with the money?
- What’s your favorite thing about the person on your left?
- If you had one wish, what would you wish for? (not more wishes)
- What do you fear most in the world?
- Who did something nice for you today?
- What did you do for someone that was nice today?
- What do you want to have for a meal next time you get to help plan?
- If you could go anyplace for our summer vacation, where would it be?
- What is one goal you hope to succeed at by the end of this year?
- What do you think you’ll be doing in five years, ten years, twenty years?
- If you could meet any famous person, living or dead, who would it be and what would you want to do with them?
- What is your favorite book and why?
- What is your favorite movie and why?
- What book do you want to read next and why?
- What movie do you want to see next and why?
- What did you think of ____insert a current event here?
- What is one word you’d use to describe yourself?
- If you could learn any artistic skill what would it be?
- What are you thankful for right now, and why?
- What’s your earliest memory in life?
- What do you think it’s like living in — fill in a place?
- If you could be president of the USA what is the first thing you’d want to accomplish?
- If you were the mayor of our city what is the one thing you’d want to be remembered for?
- What do you want to be remembered for now?
- If money were no object what would you do for a career?
- If you could learn anything in school, what would it be?
- What do you like most about your home?
- If you could make up a new holiday, what would it be about and how would you celebrate it?
Remember to ask open-ended questions and for clarification from your kids when they talk. You want to look right at them and show interest in what they are saying. This not only builds communication skills, but it also builds confidence which is great protection against peer pressure.